Director Duncan Jones on how Warcraft changes the fantasy film and game genre
Warcraft seeks to follow in the tradition of great fantasy films while adding a kick of modern action from Blizzard‘s popular game property. In bringing an adaptation of the RPG phenomenon to the big screen, director Duncan Jones combined cutting edge technology with practical world building to make the land of Azeroth real.
Centering around the arrival of the orcs through a portal seeking to colonize a new world, they come to face Azeroth’s kingdom and inhabitants. King Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper) sends his army led by Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) and Medivh (Ben Foster) to investigate the supernatural occurrence that led to their arrival and to see if they’re a potential threat. Meanwhile, Durotan (Toby Kebbel) and his clan of orcs disagree with the dark magic methods Gul’Dan (Daniel Wu) uses that goes against the orcs’ beliefs. The divide within the orcs and their interactions with the humans lead to the inciting events that legions of fans have played through and are now getting a cinematic adaptation of.
ComingSoon.net got a chance to discuss with Jones how he seeks to invite audiences to a new world of battles with heroes and villains that scratch at the surface of what could be in store in later Warcraft stories.
ComingSoon.net: The game has been such a huge part of pop culture over the years. You either played World of Warcraft or knew a friend who did. In finally being able to bring this expansive story that fans have lived through campaigns, what made the characters you decided to feature the best way into the mythology?
Duncan Jones: It was a puzzle-solving job for me in that I knew what the moment of story that we were going to make the movie out of. The orcs coming to Azeroth and how the war began. Because I knew that’s what the timeline was, I kind of knew who the characters needed to be from the lore. So I knew that Durotan would be involved. that Lothar, King Llane, Medivh and Khadgar. These characters kind of existed in this part of the story. So my job was to find ways to find some depth to those characters and create the relationships. How could I add reality to the bare bones of story that exists in the game world?
CS: The film dropped a lot of hints at the past relationships of the characters to one another. In particular, I noticed the allusions Medivh made to being aware of the orcs possibly and having a moment with Garona (Paula Patton). What can you say about making references to the story lines before the film takes place, are they nods for fans of the history?
Jones: I can answer that for most characters except Medivh. When you have a big release like this, sometimes there are things that go which you’re kind of unsure, should go. There are little elements of Medivh which I would have loved to have kept but we didn’t keep. There is more to some of those relationships.
CS: Fantasy films like The Princess Bride and Labyrinth still hold up because of the practical sets in which they were shot, while a lot of films that came after which were CG heavy didn’t. In still retaining the elements of a practical set, how did you go about creating a balance to combine it with your use of CG?
Jones: I think because of the script, because we knew we were going to be spending so much time with the orcs, so close up. I wanted to make sure that we were going to use motion capture for them. Those were going to be a lot of visual heavy effects on the characters, so let’s try and make everything else real. Let’s build the sets, build the props and really have as much as possible.
CS: As someone who usually doesn’t like CG characters, I was surprised at the level of humanity in Toby Kebbel’s performance as Durotan. Seems like after films like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Jungle Book, motion capture is beginning to finally making bigger strides in characterization.
Jones: Toby had experienced motion capture before in ‘Dawn’ but I think even for him the technology, like you said is constantly improving. He was a little worried about being able to catch every choice he was making with his face when he’s having the intimate scenes with his wife or with his friend Orgrim. Five years ago, the technology wouldn’t really be at that level so the animators would have to do it by hand and that’s when the animators would fall into the uncanny valley, but now the technology really is there for this film. Everything he was doing, every nuance, every subtlety, every kind of emotional movement in his face for his performance was captured. I think for all of us, it was just exciting when those first tech tests came through on the work that we’d been doing on the shoot.
CS: I think fans of the game, if sequels happen, will be excited to see more of the different kinds of clans in Warcraft. Are there plans to incorporate any specific ones for future films?
Jones: If we’re really, really fortunate and people love this films enough that we get the chance to make some more. As a fan there are certain things I would love to spend more time on. Get to know the dwarfs, see a little bit more of iron forge. I’d love to bring in the Tauren.
CS: Even with how the 3D brings to life elements of the gameplay, especially in the scenes with magic, its a blast to see it used in a more action-packed way when we’re used to Harry Potter spells and Gandalf. What was your inspiration behind how to portray it on the big screen?
Jones: The game has this kind of great aesthetic. That’s one of the fun things. I’m not normally a fan of 3D, but with the nature of this movie, it works. It gives you that added feel of vividness into the world. Magic is one of the things that benefits. I know the guys at Blizzard, I know what fans they are of “Star Wars,” I know what fans they are of Tolkien and of Marvel. It’s kind of, I feel bad for “Doctor Strange,” the old Marvel Doctor Strange magic is probably an inspiration for what Warcraft magic is, so we kind of got there first and now they’re making the Doctor Strange movie. I’m interested to see what they do with their magic. But they’re totally different worlds.
CS: The visuals and action in the movie is something that has to be seen in the IMAX 3D format and bring your friends along to. Does that make you excited for how fans of the game and non-gamer moviegoers will react?
Jones: The thing about seeing these movies is that you spend so much time in guilds with friends and getting to know people. So to hear stories about people going and going as groups to the movie, I’m on Twitter a lot and get people tweeting about group get-togethers. I’ve got friends flying in from this country and this country and we’re all going to watch the movie together. I think that’s really kind of cool. This film is made for both audiences for people who know the game and don’t know the game. People who don’t know the game having watched the film, they’ll get an appreciation for what it is that those of of us who are fans loved about Warcraft so much. Hopefully, they’ll want to come into our crazy world and if we get to make more films we’ll continue to expand the story.
Warcraft opens in North American theaters this Friday!